iPhone Life magazine

Bento - The Database App for Every Day Use

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, portable database, the Bento app wins hands down. You can catalog your DVDs, plan a party, create a recipe file, keep track of upcoming events, photograph and inventory your home, and maintain a vehicle maintenance log. You can create invoices, file documents for easy retrieval, and keep track of expenses.

The app comes with 25 pre-designed templates to make it simple enough for anyone to organize their life. You can find even more templates on the Bento Template Exchange. The templates can be easily customized to suit your own needs.

For those who are looking for a bit more sophistication in a database, you can purchase Bento 2 for your laptop. It provides a lot more versatility and ease-of-use than the Bento app by itself.

I used Bento 2 to set up a database to keep track of my book sales. I can track who bought what, how much the item sells for, sales tax and shipping information. It also keeps a running total of my income and expenses.

I love all the different types of field choices available. You can use text, numbers, checkboxes, drop down menus, dates, currency, calculations, ratings, automatic counters, duration, file lists, and even media such as video and sound files.

I was a little disappointed in the drop-down menu choice field on my laptop in that you cannot start typing to select the answer. You have to manually select it from the “wheel.” This was a annoying and slows down data entry.

I also didn’t like the fact that the "create a field" window blocked the database window. I hope they change this so you can move it around on your desktop.

With a bit more tweaking, you can even create some relational records; however, I was not able to recreate my Filemaker Pro business database. There are definite limitations to Bento 2, but considering the price compared to Filemaker Pro, this is to be expected.   

Once your database is set up in Bento 2, simply sync it to your Bento iPhone app for portability.

The Bento app, as a stand-alone, is perfect for the individual looking for a simple database. For those who need a few more features, the Bento 2 is an excellent upgrade at only $49. Those of us who need a full-featured database for business use have to continue to use Filemaker Pro. Personally, I would love for Filemaker Pro to provide the ease of use and portability of Bento 2. Then, I’d have the best of both worlds.

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